Historical Black church celebrates 155 years

Former slaves owned the land in Galax and built the church which still stands today
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 2:19 PM EDT
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GALAX, Va. (WDBJ) - A historically Black church in Galax is celebrating 155 years of worship and fellowship. The following comes from Riverhill Baptists Church’s 150th Church Anniversary Celebration Book:

“The Reconstruction Era (1865 - 1877) that followed the Civil War marked a turbulent period of transformation for the United States as it reintegrated the former Confederate states back into the Union, while it also grappled with integrating some nearly four million formerly enslaved persons into society, as well as its political and labor systems.

Beyond the social and political impact, Reconstruction would transform nearly every aspect of religion and religious life in the U.S. For African Americans once restricted to worshipping in secret meetings, or attending bi-racial congregations controlled by whites, one of the most significant achievements of the era, and a central component of the concept of freedom, would be the creation of their own independent churches. For whites across the North and South, deep religious factions arose, creating a complex landscape among the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist denominations.

In the Mountain Baptist Association, the largest and most influential organization of Baptist churches in the Grayson, Alleghany and Ashe County area, the factions between pro-Union and anti-Union churches deepened greatly as the political tensions of the day spread into the religious realm. These tensions reached a climax, with members declaring that the two parties could no longer live together in fellowship.

On August 24th, 1867, following the growing sentiment to form their own association, the pro-Union Baptists convened at Silas Creek Church in Ashe County, North Carolina and formed the Mountain Union Baptist Association (MUBA).

Doctrinally, there were no distinctions between the new Union Baptists and their Regular Baptists counterpart. Furthermore, the Union Baptists would continue many of the practices common among Appalachian primitive sects, including foot washing, river baptisms, along with the promotion of revivals, and Sunday Schools.

Soon after the establishment of the MUBA, missionary work began among the African Americans within its jurisdiction. Through these efforts four African American ministers, Dred Goins, Washington Goins, Josephus Greer, and Thomas Jones, were ordained at the Shoal Creek Church of the MUBA by Elder Isaac Landreth. These men, all of whom were formerly enslaved just a few short years before and residents of the area, were given the task to preach and organize the African Americans of the area into churches.

Between 1868 to 1873 four churches had been established and on November 7, 1873, under the auspices of the MUBA, these churches gathered for the purpose of establishing their own Baptist association. Upon examination by the MUBA and having been found to be orthodox in their faith of the gospel, these churches were organized into an association by their own free will and consent by the name of the New Covenant Baptist Association.

The four churches compromising the newly formed association were Pleasant Hill, Bridle Creek, Sulphur Springs and Riverhill.

Historical records indicate that Riverhill was established sometime between 1868 and 1872.” -written from the 150th Church Anniversary Celebration Book